Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives. It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.
You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.
This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo). Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!
Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.
This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.
In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
At this point, student A will need to start again.
Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂 This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.
Admittedly, I’m in sore need of a respite from the pressure of end-of-the-course classes, but it’s also true that I have a lot of ideas to try and share sitting on the drafts shelf of my mind. Little by little they will see the light.
My students struggle with English spelling. Who doesn’t? Little by little I can see they’re making progress, but unfortunately there are some spelling mistakes that I keep finding in my student’s exams. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the occurrence of these spelling mistakes has little to do with your mother tongue though, admittedly, the quiz is based on my students’ spelling mistakes who are, for the most part, Spanish.
What about you? Do you also make these mistakes? Let’s find out!
Some orthodox and unorthodox techniques to get rid of these spelling mistakes
Write them down. This is the dull, traditional but effective way of correcting spelling mistakes. Start with one mistake and write it down, at least 10 times. This was my mother’s favourite method. I guess it served two purposes: to help us learn the correct spelling and also to keep us quiet for a while. I can’t blame her. I have 4 siblings and there are 6 years between the youngest and the oldest.
Do the quiz. Do it once and write down all the targeted words you can remember. Take the quiz again. Correct the ones you misspelled. Repeat procedure.
Ask someone to help you. Write a list of the words you have trouble spelling. Write the translation in your own language next to each one. Ask someone in your family to call any of these words at random. Write them down and ask this person to correct them. Once you have mastered the spelling of the words, you might want to buy your helper a drink. He deserves it.
Write a short story. Write the words you seem unable to spell correctly. Make sure you write them down properly. Read them several times. Write a short story containing them and give yourself a high five if you got most of them right. Warning: don’t ask anybody to read it. The story will probably not make any sense at all.
Stick on the wallsof your house flashcards with the correct spelling. I used to do it with phrasal verbs when I was at uni. It worked but my flatmates were not very happy.
Use Quizlet or any other app to create flashcards. This app is great to work with spelling as it offers a variety of games to practise the correct spelling. I’ve made a short video tutorial. See it below.
Oh my! We are enjoying the last week of summer and I don’t want to think about what’s ahead of us. I quite like autumn provided it doesn’t rain a lot, but I absolutely hate winter. Light for me is essential and where I live, surrounded by beautiful misty green mountains, we don’t get to see much light in winter. That’s the downside.
Anyway, I got the idea for this post just before my brain exploded after endless hours of correcting errors from essays.
Have a look at these two sentences. Take your time.
Which is correct? The first? The second? Or maybe both? 1. I paid the tickets with my credit card 2. I paid for the tickets with my credit card
At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a little quiz to test your knowledge, but now here’s the explanation:
The verb “to pay” can be both transitive and intransitive.
You” pay FOR something” when saying exactly what you’ll receive in return for the money/payment. Therefore, sentence 2 above is correct. (I paid the tickets with my credit card)
I paid for the tickets with my credit card
My son pays for his internet connection with his pocket money.
How much would you pay for that jacket?
You “pay something” when you don’t mention what is being purchased.
I paid 50€ to get a good seat
Everybody in Spain must pay taxes
I need to work if I want to pay the bills/the rent
You “pay someone”.
I paid him 50€
He has always paid his employees
Can you pay the plumber for fixing the tap?
And now that we are on the subject 🙂 perhaps you’re williing to go the extra mile and learn a few expressions with this common verb. Here we go. Just 6.
To pay in advance= to pay for something before it is received or delivered
I paid in advance for the first night in the hotel
To pay an arm and a leg/ to pay through the nose for something = you pay too much
Most Americans pay an arm and a leg to provide their families with a health plan
To pay the price= to suffer the consequences for doing something or risking something
Those who did not get off early paid the price and couldn’t get there on time
To pay as you go = to pay costs as they occur; to pay for goods as they are bought (rather than charging them)
Get a pay as you go mobile
To pay (someone) peanuts= to pay someone the absolute minumum amount necessary.
Talking about money, we hear that in sweatshops workers are paid peanuts.
To pay attention to (someone/something)= to give attention to someone/something As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
Officially it’s still spring, but here in the north of Spain it seems the summer has arrived. So, while some people are already kind of brown and wearing colourful garments, I am still hidden under layers of dark clothes looking like a stuffed sausage and crazy busy 🙂 checking exams.
Talking about the weather seems to be a favourite topic of conversation,but not only for British people. Every foreigner I’ve met, no matter the nationality, eventually talks about the weather.
Do you talk about the weather? Isn’t it true that when talking to people you have just met to simply start a conversation and avoid the I-don’t-know-what-to-say embarrassing moment, we talk about the weather?
So, how do you ask about the weather? Choose the correct answer
What’s the weather like?
How’s the weather?
The correct answer is c.
There is not much difference between these two questions when talking about the weather. Either of these is used in every day English. Some people might argue that “What’s the weather like in Spain?” asks for a more detailed description of the usual weather in Spain, whereas “How’s the weather in Spain?” would be more casual and would get “Good/Bad/Rainy” as an answer .
The truth is that asking these two questions will almost always get you the same answer.
I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.
Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.
So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and say they do, you elicit some examples and give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.
Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.
This is how I suggest you do this quiz
Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.
Yes, I am doing this. I am publishing this post. And I am publishing this post even when I am well aware that it is going to stir up controversy.
How does she dare, I can almost hear you say, create a quiz about subject-verb agreement when she is not even a native speaker?
I might regret it, but the truth is that I sort of needed to clarify in my mind one of the most obscure points of grammar in the English language- namely that of subject-verb agreement-, because contrary to what one might think a singular subject in English does not always demand a singular verb, and what looks like a plural subject might not be so and take a singular verb instead. To top it all, when there is disagreement among grammarians, both singular and plural forms can be used.
To create this quiz, I have done a lot of research on the Internet and read what some noted grammarians have to say about this issue and I have found that they don’t always agree. For this reason, I have tried to avoid the most controversial subject-verb agreement issues.
Here’s my latest contribution to the British Councilmagazine Voices: “Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom“. The article encourages students to correct their own writing and it contains 6 error-correction activitieswhich are a lot of fun.Who said learning English was boring?
Is it definetely or definitely? Which is correct, possession or possesion?
Most students struggle with English spelling and no wonder, English spelling is difficult. Plain and simple. The best advice I can probably give you to improve your spelling is to read a lot and then if you keep misspelling a word, you might want to write it down several times ( I’m sorry! I know it sounds like a very traditional thing to do, but it works and this is what is really important, isn’t it?). Doing spelling quizzes can also help, and it’s certainly more fun than writing the tricky word several times.
So, are you up to a little challenge? Then, try these three quizzes based on students’ common spelling mistakes found in Intermediate, Advanced and Proficiency exams. I have created them with the aim of helping my students get rid of these common spelling mistakes and I hope they are helpful to anybody visiting the blog!
This is how I suggest you work with the quizzes:
Start with the intermediate quiz even though you are an advanced or proficiency student. Life is full of surprises and it doesn’t hurt to double-check tricky words.
Once you have finished the quiz, try to remember which words were tested and write them down on a piece of paper. You don’t only need to be able to recognize them but to remember its correct spelling.
Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.
Easy? Good! Let’s take a more difficult quiz now!
Piece of cake? Well done! Let’s try now the most difficult one!
I’d like to finish this post with an excellent piece of advice from Thomas Jefferson.
“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.”
(Thomas Jefferson, American president 1800-1809, in a letter to his daughter Martha)